A GROUP of York school students has returned from a life- changing trip to South Africa.

This year marks a decade of links between Archbishop Holgate’s CE School and churches and community projects in the Anglican Diocese of Cape Town. This year’s visit was the fifth and was undertaken by Year 10 students during their work experience fortnight last month.

The students helped community projects Archbishop Holgate’s has worked with for many years, an experience school chaplain Richard Nihill described as “life-changing” for many of the York youngsters.

He said: “It is a real blessing to be involved in this link with the Diocese of Cape Town. We always receive a warm welcome and wonderful hospitality when we visit.

“It is also amazing to see the emotional and spiritual journey our young people undertake; many of them do come back transformed. In the past we have had students decide to study international politics or childcare inspired by their visits. One student even switched from a career in acting to instead studying medicine having been so moved by what she experienced.”

The students planted a vegetable garden and painted play equipment at an Aids orphanage. At a church primary school they spent time as classroom assistants and planted trees as eventual shade for the summer and a windbreak in the winter, and at a secondary school helped a group of special needs students.

They also took suitcases full of donated items, including York City FC shirts donated by Benenden Health, blankets given by the Unravel craft group at St Paul’s Church, handmade dresses by Archbishop Holgate’s students and second hand clothes for babies and children.

Over the years, 50 students have visited the area, and in turn the school has welcomed South African visitors including a football team, three bishops from the Dioceses of False Bay, Table Bay and Saldanha Bay, and a group of youth workers. The school was honoured by a visit by Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu in November 2012.